13 November 2010

R.I.P. Janine

 I should have known that something was even worse than it seemed.  I was in what is possibly my least favorite place in this city: the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  But I knew that wasn't the only reason why I was feeling so sad, angry and ready to bolt from my chair on the panel.  Every time the panel's moderator asked a question, I had to ask her to repeat it.  Now, they weren't the best thought-out, much less the best-written, questions I've ever heard.  And they certainly weren't personal, at least not for me. Still, I shouldn't have been blocking them as I was--or feeling as resentful as I was of the other panel members, or the audience, such as it was.

And, as much as I dislike being empaneled (like a sheet of wood nailed to a wall?) , I knew even at that moment that it also wasn't a reason why I should have felt so agitated and unwilling to talk.  When the moderator asked whether I wanted to say anything else, I very emphatically replied, "No!"

Actually, the group I facilitated yesterday, and about which I was asked to speak, didn't go well.  People were bickering over their definitions of "queer" and related terms:  exactly the sort of scenario I was trying to avoid.  And someone walked in halfway through it and, in a very confrontational mode, proffered his notions about what it means to be trans, gay or a cross-dresser.  Now I'm disgusted with myself for making it seem as if the group went better than it did when the moderator asked about it.

So I had a dismal experience on a beautiful day.  But that wasn't the worst of it: I felt an all-pervading sense of gloom.

Now I know what may have caused those feelings.  After getting home tonight, I opened an e-mail to find out that my friend Janine had passed.  

I stayed with her for part of my most recent trip to France, six years ago.  I knew then that something wasn't right with her, though I couldn't tell--and she wouldn't tell me--what.  To be fair, she may not yet have known.  But, knowing her, she might not have told anyone even if she had known.

Not long afterward, she was in the hospital, where she would spend much of her time until she ended up in a nursing home last year.  She was feeling pain; a tumor was found and things went downhill from there.  Two years later, she came here, with Marie-Jeanne, and they, Diana, her husband Don and I made the rounds of art galleries and a trip to the Guggenheim.  Janine nearly kept up with us in spite of using a walker and the fact that we were actually following her demand not to slow down for her.  

Probably the best description I could come up with for her was "life force." She was exactly that:  I, and others, felt more full of life itself  when we were around Janine than at just about any other time.  I don't think I've ever met anyone who had her passion for living, and for life, as she did.  Even if she never picked up a camera, pencils or paintbrush, she could not have been anything but an artist:  She simply couldn't not be creative.  

According to Diana, who relayed the news, Janine died "peacefully and without pain."  Of course I'm skeptical whenever anyone  speaks of how someone else felt when dying.  That's not to say I doubt Diana.  I just find it at least ironic that someone can die peacefully after, as Diana put it, "a long and painful saga."  And that a peaceful death can be painful for the survivors.

Janine, je te manquerai!